MADISON, Wis. — One Wisconsin Now’s historic effort to provide relief to student loan borrowers across Wisconsin and the nation by allowing borrowers to refinance their loans, just like you can a mortgage takes center stage at this evening’s opening night of the Democratic National Convention with Sen. Elizabeth Warren set to address delegates. Warren, along with Wisconsin Senator Tammy Baldwin, authored and has championed a common sense plan that would help tens of millions of the nation’s 43 million student loan borrowers holding $1.4 trillion of debt.
“For student loan borrowers across Wisconsin and across the nation, the difference is clear: Democrats like Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders support allowing you to refinance your student loan, just like you can a mortgage,” said Scot Ross, One Wisconsin Now Executive Director. “Unfortunately, Republicans like Ron Johnson and Scott Walker think student loan borrowers should be left to the mercy of Wall Street profiteers and Washington, D.C.”
First-of-its-kind research conducted by One Wisconsin Institute back in 2011 showed Wisconsinites burdened by student loan debt were twice as likely to rent or live with their parents than those without student loans and twice as likely to be unable to purchase a new car. Estimated loss of new car purchasing power directly attributable to student loan debt was $200 million annually in Wisconsin and $6.4 billion nationwide, according to One Wisconsin Institute’s science from a survey of 61,000 Americans with and without student loan debt.
The 43 million with student loan debt are among the most powerful potential voting constituencies in the United States, along with the 55 million Americans who receive Social Security and 47 million who receive Medicare. In 2014, 155,000 Americans had their Social Security payments garnished because of student loan debt.
“Student loan debt is a multi-generational crisis, affecting middle class and lower income Americans of all ages, backgrounds, genders and ethnicities,” said Ross. “Student loan debt doesn’t discriminate — it affects every community in the country.”
According to the a study by TICAS, a comprehensive 50 state investigation of student loan debt for 2014, seventy percent of Wisconsin’s graduates have student loan debt, the third highest percentage in the nation, and up from tenth in 2011 when Walker was first elected. The average debt load of over $28,800 carried by Wisconsin graduates ranks the state seventeenth nationally. The research also found that over the last decade Wisconsin graduates were saddled with a seventy four percent increase in the amount of debt upon graduation and that ten percent more graduates were leaving school with student debt.
For a second consecutive legislative session, Republicans in control of the Wisconsin State Legislature adjourned while denying any help for nearly one million state student loan borrowers by refusing to pass a common sense state plan to help them refinance, just like you can with a mortgage. At the federal level, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson has voted several times to kill the student loan refinancing bill authored by Warren and Baldwin that would provide immediate help to 515,000 at least in Wisconsin with no net cost to taxpayers.